Plans to build new mosque and give non-Italians the right to vote

Proposals to promote visibility and participation of foreign communities in Florence

Editorial Staff
July 21, 2005

In the wake of the terrorist bombings in London on July 7, suspected foreigners were rounded up throughout Italy and questioned on their possible connection to terrorist activities.  Many consider the search operations leading to these interrogations to be of dubious legality. Although the fear about attacks in Italy may be valid, many groups consider the reaction of law enforcement officials excessive and worry of the effect it might have on potentially dangerous terrorist organisations. In a new initiative last week, Florence city councillors decided to take a different approach in confronting the issue.

 

Last Wednesday centre-left leaders presented a motion that included, among several other initiatives, a proposal to allow foreign residents, who make up almost 5 percent of the city’s population, to vote in local elections and thus to be involved in local decision-making processes. City Council Member Paolo Imperlati explained, “In our country legal measures that are restrictive and morally detrimental to human dignity have gone in to effect. In the past few days, clearly xenophobic and irresponsible behaviour has also been added by the current government, with the manifest intention to foment racial resentment and to create a climate of insecurity and fear amongst the people. We believe that this makes up an agenda of political, civil, and social obscurantism. For this reason our political battle is for civil progress.” Authors of the motion hope to combat repression and separation by promoting dialogue and participation.

 

Another proposal made in the same motion, which has sparked a heated debate among city council members, is for the construction of a mosque in the centre of the city for the religious Islamic community of Florence. The Democratici di Sinistra party leaders stand by the proposal, maintaining that a community that makes efforts to include and support all of its various cultures is more apt to promote a pacific dialogue between these cultures. “In the process of the transformation of our city,” explained DS representative Michele Morrocchi, “grand mobility, economic and social works are not enough, elements of sociality, like a mosque, are also necessary.” The imam of Florence, Elzir Izzedin, was pleased with this proposal and guaranteed that the building of such a mosque would only serve to further promote dialogue and communication between cultures. “We are an integral part of the Florentine and Tuscan society; therefore, we believe that it is fair to create a place of prayer and worship for all of us, which will also be a place of culture and sociality for Florence.” Izzedin was also quick to note that any indication of potential terrorist activity would immediately be reported to the police.

 

Various city council members, however, are not convinced by the contentions of facilitated intercultural communication, and have vocally protested the construction of the proposed mosque. Centre-right leaders are not certain the issue should even be under discussion. Aleanza Nazionale party member Jacopo Cellai noted that it seems illogical  “considering the enormous problems that weigh on Florentines, like those of housing, work, the environment, that we should worry about realizing and possibly sponsoring the construction of a mosquein order to do a favour for a community, the Islamic , that very often has assumed ambiguous positions in regards to extremists, as happened with Adel Smith and here with the imam of Sorgane.” Cellai refers here to the previous imam of Florence who is now in prison on charges of terrorist collaborations.

 

 Even though the debate is far from over, the fate of the proposals that sparked it could significantly affect the foreign communities of Florence.

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